ABOUT TREE KANGAROOS

 

Species and Distribution

There are about 12 different species of tree kangaroo. Two species are found in northeastern Australia, and the rest of the species and subspecies are found on the island of New Guinea. TKCP focuses on the conservation of the Matschie’s tree kangaroo. Matschie's tree kangaroos live only on the Huon Peninsula of northeastern Papua New Guinea.

Height

37-70 inches (94-179 cm)

Weight

Adult male: 15-20 pounds (7-9 kg) Adult female: 15-20 pounds (7-9 kg)

Life Span

Tree kangaroos are very difficult to study in the wild so their average lifespan is unknown, but it is likely 15-20 years. However, in captivity they can live for more than 20 years! The oldest known tree kangaroo is 27 years old.

Tree kangaroos are mostly solitary but mother/offspring pairs will form a strong bond until the offspring is old enough to take care of itself at about 18 months. In the wild, male tree kangaroos will often mate with several different females.

 

Wild tree kangaroo joey with his mother at Wasaunon research site, Papua New Guinea. Photo by Bruce Beehler, Conservation International

Photos By: Russ Mittermeier and Lisa Dabek
 
 

Reproduction

Tree kangaroos are marsupials so a majority of their physical development occurs in the mother’s pouch. Female tree kangaroos have a gestation period of only 44 days. When the underdeveloped, kidney-bean-sized joey is born, it crawls into the pouch where it will latch onto a teat and continue to grow for three months. The joey remains in the pouch until about 7 months. The mother will clean her pouch and groom her joey often during this phase. After the joey initially leaves the pouch at about 7 months, it will continue to return to the pouch to nurse. This "in and out" phase lasts for about three months, and the joey is completely out of the pouch at 10 months and weaned after about 13 months. Once capable of caring for itself, the joey will leave its mother at 18 months old to establish its own home range.

Ecology and Habitat

Tree kangaroos live high up in the mountains, in cloud forests at elevations between 4,000 feet (about 1,000 meters) and 11,000 ft (about 3,500 m). They spend most of their time in trees, and are capable of jumping from heights of 60 feet to the forest floor without hurting themselves!

The Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program partners with the National Geographic Society to study tree kangaroo ecology using Crittercams©. TKCP equips wild tree kangaroos with the Crittercams©, which are small cameras attached to collars. Because tree kangaroos are very elusive and spend much of their time high in the forest canopy, the camera footage provides a rare opportunity to learn about their ecology, behavior and diet.

Click here to watch TKCP’s Crittercam© footage from a tree kangaroo’s perspective

Diet

In the wild, tree kangaroos will primarily eat leaves, as well as ferns, moss, tree bark, and flowers such as orchids.

In captivity, tree kangaroos diet includes romaine lettuce, swiss chard, bok choy, spinach, celery, carrots, corn cob, yams, bananas, fiber biscuits, parsley, dandelion, collards, green beans, and hard boiled eggs.

Status and Conservation Threats

Matschie’s tree kangaroos are an endangered species with an estimated wild population of less than 2,500 individuals (IUCN 2014). Habitat destruction caused by logging and mining exploration is a danger to tree kangaroo populations. Tree kangaroos play an important role in the culture and diet of the indigenous people, and unsustainable hunting practices threaten the survival of tree kangaroos.

The Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program has established the YUS Conservation Area in Papua New Guinea to help protect the Matschie’s tree kangaroos. To learn more about our work, go to Our Program.

Tree Kangaroos at the Woodland Park Zoo

You can visit Seattle’s resident Matschie’s tree kangaroo ambassador at the Woodland Park Zoo!

 

 

How You Can Help

 

Woodland Park Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Tree Kangaroo Species Survival Plan.

You can help the endangered Matschie’s tree kangaroo by supporting Woodland Park Zoo and TKCP. You can visit the zoo and tell your friends and family about what you learned. You can also support the communities of YUS directly by purchasing their various products, such as our YUS Conservation Coffee which is sold in the Woodland Park Zoo gift shop and through Caffe Vita.

 

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Want to learn more about tree kangaroos and the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program? Check out ‘Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea', a book by Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop based on their visit to the YUS Conservation Area with Dr. Lisa Dabek and the TKCP team.